Ogilvy CEO John Seifert Says He Will Retire in 2021

Seifert will continue to lead the agency until a successor is appointed

Photo of John Seifert
Ogilvy global CEO John Seifert plans to leave role in 2021. Getty Images

Ogilvy CEO John Seifert announced in an internal memo that he will be retiring as the agency’s chief executive in 2021.

Seifert has spent 41 years with the WPP agency, and succeeded Mile Young as global CEO in early 2016. He succeeded Young in worldwide chairman role as well and stated a desire to focus on Ogilvy’s distinct heritage, while pointing out he would be the last CEO to have worked with all eight of Ogilvy’s previous chairman, including founder David Ogilvy. Seifert subsequently oversaw a global restructuring at Ogilvy, as well as an agency rebrand on its 70th anniversary.

In the memo, Seifert said that he and WPP CEO Mark Read agreed earlier this year that the time was right to search for a successor to lead Ogilvy globally. Given the time necessary for such a search, Seifert said he will continue to act in the role until the next CEO is appointed.

He noted that he as worked closely with Read on succession planning, including his own, since Read joined WPP as CEO in 2018 after Martin Sorrell abruptly stepped down from the chief executive role after 33 years in the wake of an investigation by the board of WPP into allegations of “personal misconduct.”

“In a moment like this, I am more committed than ever to our people, our clients, and the Ogilvy brand,” Seifert said.

He concluded the memo by calling it “an extraordinary privilege” to serve the agency since first arriving as an intern in 1979, and said, “I love this company with all my heart and will be forever supportive of its success.”

Here’s the memo in full:

STATEMENT FROM JOHN SEIFERT

Chief Executive, Worldwide

The Ogilvy Group

In June I will have served Ogilvy for 41 years, the past five as worldwide CEO.

I have worked closely with Mark Read, Chief Executive of WPP, since his appointment in 2018 on leadership development and succession planning across The Ogilvy Group, and that includes me as well.

Mark and I have each embarked on ambitious journeys of business and brand transformation for the companies we lead, and nothing is more important to both of us than recruiting and developing top talent.

Earlier this year, Mark and I agreed that we should begin the process of searching for my eventual successor, knowing that this process takes time and thoughtful engagement with potential candidates internally and externally.

In a moment like this, I am more committed than ever to our people, our clients, and the Ogilvy brand. I will continue to lead Ogilvy with all my strength until a successor is appointed and a leadership transition is completed sometime in 2021.

It’s been an extraordinary privilege to serve Ogilvy since joining the company as a summer intern in 1979. I love this company with all my heart and will be forever supportive of its success.

This story is developing and may be updated as further information becomes available. 


@ErikDOster erik.oster@adweek.com Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.
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